5.4/10
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2 user 1 critic

Japanese Butterflies (1908)

Les papillons japonais (original title)
Two Japanese artists having drawn a silk worm on a screen, the animal takes life and starts spinning its cocoon and is soon hidden in its silken prison. The cocoon being now fully in view, ... See full summary »

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Two Japanese artists having drawn a silk worm on a screen, the animal takes life and starts spinning its cocoon and is soon hidden in its silken prison. The cocoon being now fully in view, it suddenly splits open and a beautiful butterfly takes its flight. After having fluttered for a while the magnificent insect comes back to earth and then undergoes a number of changes, presenting to the astonished eye of the spectator the most glorious display of colors, which blend from the darkest shades into the most delicate hues. This marvelous color dream over the butterfly transforms itself once more and a charming young woman makes one soon forget the beauties of the previous wonder by eclipsing it with a most graceful and fascinating Loie Fuller dance. This feat at an end the woman disappears as by enchantment, and the last scene shows a thousand butterflies rising towards heaven. Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

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16 May 1908 (USA)  »

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Japanese Butterflies  »

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1.33 : 1
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Maybe a better title might have been "The Japanese Magician"
14 February 2014 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

It's not surprising that this short film was directed by Segundo de Chomón as it bears three of his trademarks---the copying of the style and tricks of Georges Méliès and Segundo's fascination with Asian characters (though they were actually French folks in stereotypically Japanese outfits and wigs) as well as butterflies. It is enjoyable but pales in comparison with his brilliant "Kiri-Kis"--a film you absolutely must see if you love early silent films.

In this film, a 'Japanese' man appears along with two 'Japanese' kids and a 'Japanese' lady. They dance about, he performs some nice magic (including some fire) and it has some innovative spinning umbrellas. Following this, you get to see some butterflies appear--but they are REALLY Lame, as you can see the stagehands dressed all in black (like magicians' hidden assistants) manipulating the fake butterflies. Then, he and two female assistants draw leaves and a caterpillar with chalk and then it becomes real (thanks to the director stopping the camera and inserting the prop caterpillar). Then, using a dissolve it becomes a cocoon and then a giant butterfly. A HUGE amount of the final portion consists of the insect vibrating its wings as colors appear (they were hand-painted on the film stock using stencils) and finally, it becomes a woman butterfly.

While some of the effects were quite nice for 1908, the execution was inconsistent. And, ultimately, the film seemed to drag a bit towards the end. Well done overall but not one of the director's best.


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